walking on the sea (lake)

The Greek that is translated as “walking on the sea (or: lake)” or similar in English is translated in Waiwai as tuna ratari mokyakne kopi, coycoy wara: “He came along the surface of the water, step, step.” Robert Hawkins (in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff.) explains: “The particle coy (here reduplicated) is an iddeophone meaning ‘to step’ and indicates that Christ was walking over the surface of the water rather than comping to the boat (…) [and] kopi indicates fear, which though not expressed in this verse is expressed in the following verses. Thus we have added to particle here with out, we feel, adding anything to the meaning of the original text.”

See also has been raised.

complete verse (Mark 6:48)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 6:48:

  • Uma: “He saw that they were desperately rowing, for the wind was blowing meeting their boat. At first-dawn, he walked on the water towards them, as if he were going to pass them.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “He saw his disciples having great difficulties because the wind was against them. When it was soon to be day (pagdayi’ ellew) Isa went to them walking on the skin of the lake. He was about to just pass them by,” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And Jesus knew that his disciples were having a difficult time rowing for they were going against a strong wind. And when it was about to dawn Jesus followed them walking on the water. It seemed as if he was going to go ahead of them,” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “When he looked-down-at them, he saw that they were being hardshipped in making-the boat -go, because the wind was meeting-them. When it was getting-to-be-cockcrow, Jesus went-downhill and walked on the surface of the water approaching them. He would have passed-by them,” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Jesus could see/view that his disciples were having a hard time rowing because the wind was contrary. When it was pre-dawn, Jesus followed after them. He was just walking on top of the water. It’s like he would pass them by.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

pronoun for "God"

God transcends gender, but most languages are limited to grammatical gender expressed in pronouns. In the case of English, this is traditionally confined to “he” (or in the forms “his,” “him,” and “himself” in many English Bible translations when referring to the persons of the Trinity with the capitalized “He,” “His,” “Him,” or “Himself”), “she” (and “her,” “hers,” and “herself”), and “it” (and “its” and “itself”).

Modern Chinese, however, offers another possibility (click or tap here to read more):

In modern Chinese, the third-person singular pronoun is always pronounced the same (tā), but it is written differently according to its gender (他 is “he,” 她 is “she,” and 它/牠 is “it” and their respective derivative forms). In each of these characters, the first (or upper) part defines the gender (man, woman, or thing/animal), while the second element gives the clue to its pronunciation.

In 1930, after a full century with dozens of Chinese translations, Bible translator Wang Yuande (王元德) coined a new “godly” pronoun: 祂. Chinese readers immediately knew how to pronounce it: tā. But they also recognized that the first part of that character, signifying something spiritual, clarified that each person of the Trinity has no gender aside from being God.

While the most important Protestant and Catholic Chinese versions respectively have opted not to use 祂, many other Bible translations do and it is widely used in hymnals and other Christian materials. (Source: Zetzsche)

Early versions of Lü Zhenzhong’s (呂振中) version (New Testament: 1946, complete Bible: 1970) also used 祂 to refer to “God.” Kramers points out: “This new way of writing ‘He,’ however, has created a minor problem of its own: must this polite form be used whenever Jesus is referred to? Lü follows the rule that, wherever Jesus is referred to as a human being, the normal ta (他) is written; where he is referred to as divine, especially after the ascension, the reverential ta (祂) is used.”

Source: R. P. Kramers in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 152ff.

In Kouya, Godié, Northern Grebo, Eastern Krahn, Western Krahn, and Guiberoua Béte, all languages of the Kru family in Western Africa, a different kind of systems of pronouns is used (click or tap here to read more):

In that system one kind of pronoun is used for humans (male and female alike) and one for natural elements, non-liquid masses, and some spiritual entities (one other is used for large animals and another one for miscellaneous items). While in these languages the pronoun for spiritual entities used to be employed when referring to God, this has changed into the use of the human pronoun.

Lynell Zogbo (in The Bible Translator 1989, p. 401ff) explains in the following way: “From informal discussions with young Christians especially, it would appear that, at least for some people, the experience and/or concepts of Christianity are affecting the choice of pronoun for God. Some people explain that God is no longer ‘far away,’ but is somehow tangible and personal. For these speakers God has shifted over into the human category.”

In Kouya, God (the Father) and Jesus are referred to with the human pronoun ɔ, whereas the Holy Spirit is referred to with a non-human pronoun. (Northern Grebo and Western Krahn make a similar distinction.)

Eddie Arthur, a former Kouya Bible translation consultant, says the following: “We tried to insist that this shouldn’t happen, but the Kouya team members were insistent that the human pronoun for the Spirit would not work.”

In Burmese, the pronoun ko taw (ကိုယ်တော်) is used either as 2nd person (you) or 3rd person (he, him, his) reference. “This term clearly has its root in the religious language in Burmese. No ordinary persons are addressed or known by this pronoun because it is reserved for Buddhist monks, famous religious teachers, and in the case of Christianity, the Trinity.” (Source: Gam Seng Shae in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 202ff.)

The English “Contemporary Torah” addresses the question of God and gendered pronouns by mostly avoiding pronouns in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (unless God is referred to as “lord,” “father,” “kind,” or “warrior”). It does that by either using passive constructs (“He gave us” vs “we were given”), by using the adjective “divine” or by using “God” rather than a pronoun.

Translation: Chinese





Translator: Simon Wong